Tuesday, August 20, 2013

You don't need diet books and fake health food

I don't generally like to rant in this blog. I prefer to keep things postive and ignore things that piss me off. But there's something that's been getting to me lately and I feel like I need to share it.

Fitness and nutrition are really important to me.  I am happy that there's tons of accessible information out there for anyone who wants to learn how to adopt a healthy lifestyle. But the diet industry is just insane. Big companies know that people want to lose weight, and that they are willing to try just about anything to do so. Next time you're in a bookstore, look at the dozens-if not hundreds of books about diets and weight loss.

Now, I am not an expert in diets and nutrition-I just know what works for me. But you know what I can tell you for sure doesn't get you in shape? Sitting on your ass reading a book. Yet people buy these type books all the time. I think that for some people, just the act of reading a book about diet and/or fitness makes them feel like they are taking a step towards improving their body composition. And in some ways it could be-you need to arm yourself with good information before you can become a healthier person. But I really feel like a lot of these books are taking advantage of people who feel poorly about themselves and don't know where to start. The information in them is often overly complex with lots of charts and math involved. I think that's on purpose. They have to make it seem complicated so that you see the authors as experts. They know something that you don't know, so you should keep buying their books(and related products) to get the information you need. But in my experience, there IS no secret. The few simple things you have heard your entire life are the things that are true. Eat healthy food. Don't eat too much. Move your body. That's it.
I'm not saying you should never read a book about diet and exercise. I've read a few myself that have equipped me with great information about nutrition. There are exactly two books that I would recommend you read to figure out the basics of truly healthy eating:

The Eat Clean Diet Recharged by Tosca Reno- I've talked about this book before so I'm not going to go into too much detail about it. But this is the way that I try to eat, and I know the same goes for many fitness enthusiasts. This book really drives home how important nutrition is to one's physique. It lays out the basics of what and how you should eat to achieve and maintain your best body.
As much as I love this way of eating, and this book, I do have a bit of a beef with the author/publisher. There's 13 books in the "Eat Clean" series, most of them pretty redundant. Again, I feel this is an example of the fitness industry taking advantage of people who want to lose weight. If you buy and read this one book you'll get the picture. Don't waste your money on most of the rest of them.

Food Rules: An Eater's Manual by Michael Pollan- This one's not even about losing weight, yet it's one of the best guides I've seen to reframing the way you think about food. This is sort of a condensed version of two of Pollan's other books; The Omnivore's Dilemma, and In Defense of Food. Together, the three books critque the North American food industry, and question if much of what we eat can even really be called food. This is my favourite of the three books because you can read it in an hour and get all the key points of Pollan's food philosophy. His overall message is clear: eat real food that is as close to it's natural state as possible. And that thought is a great segue to the second half of my rant.

Grocery stores are full of food products that are (in my opinion) falsely marketed as healthy or as being weight loss aides. Things like these:

Or these:

The words "Thin" and "Lean" are right in their names, but these are defnitely not what I would call clean foods. They're low calorie, but that doesn't make them good for you. The 100 calorie snack packs (which seems to be a big trend) are straight up junk food. There's nothing healthier about them than say, regular Oreos-they're just smaller. If you want a healthy 100 calorie snank, eat almonds. And if you are craving chocolate you know what you should eat? CHOCOLATE. At least it's not lying to you about what it is. And the Lean Cuisines aren't good for you either. If you eat these once in a while because you're busy I get that. Just don't fool yourself into thinking you're doing your body any favours. In order to lose weight AND feel satisfied you need to eat lean protein and vegetables. Not low calorie microwave sanwiches and pasta. Some of these "dinners" have as little as 250 calories. So yeah, if you make that your meal all the time you might lose weight-because you'd be fucking starving yourself. And that kind of diet never lasts and usually makes you feel shittier than it's worth.

One of the worst offenders is this:

I hate this brand because it is heavily promoted as a weight loss food. But it's highly processed-meaning that most of it's ingredients original nutrition has been removed. I looked at the nutritional information and not only is there literally 0 fibre, and negligable nutrtional value in general, but the suggested serving size is half a cup. That's nothing. Half a cup of anything (except maybe butter) could help you lose weight if that's what you had as a meal because again: that's not enough food! There's nothing healthy about Special K, or really most cold breakfast cereals. Instead eat an unprocessed whole grain hot cereal or oatmeal. It's much better for you and super cheap.

Between the books and the food I think what I'm trying to get at is this: Don't trust the people that are trying to sell you products to NOT mislead you. Kellogg's is also responsible for Pop Tarts, Eggo Waffles and Fruit Loops-I don't think that your health is their main concern. Be critical of anything that claims to help you lose weight. Like I said before there are no real secrets, so don't overcomplicate things. You might just end up feeling overwhelmed and wanting to give up. Get the basic information you need about food and exercise and really put it into action, and you will get results.

Rant over.

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